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Abstract

The UK Oil & Gas Authority carried out post-well failure analyses of exploration and appraisal wells in the Moray Firth and the UK Central North Sea to fully understand the basis for drilling the prospects and the reasons why the prospects failed.

The data consisted of Tertiary, Mesozoic and Palaeozoic targets/segments associated with 97 wells drilled from 2003 to 2013. Seal was the primary reason for failure followed by trap, reservoir and charge. Root causes for failure were a lack of lateral seal, the absence of the target reservoir and the lack of a trap. The main pre-drill risk was not accurately predicted in over one-third of the cases and a third of the segments were targeted on the basis of perceived Direct Hydrocarbon Indicators.

This study identified a number of interpretation gaps and pitfalls that ultimately contributed to the well failures. These included poor integration, improper application of geophysics, lack of regional play context, and absent or ineffective peer review. Addressing these gaps in a comprehensive and systematic way is fundamental to improving exploration success rates.

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